Annika sinks retirement announcement like birdie putt
By: By DAVID PORTER, Associated Press Writer
CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) — Annika Sorenstam ignored her notes and spoke from the heart. One of golf’s greatest players was leaving the game, and she handled her retirement announcement the way she would a 10-foot birdie putt with a tournament on the line.
With command and composure.
Calling her decision one she’d “been thinking about for a while,” Sorenstam said Tuesday she will retire after the season. The 37-year-old Swede ends an LPGA Tour career in which she has won 72 tournaments to date and delivered a defining moment when she teed it up against the men on the PGA Tour.
“I have made a decision to step away from competitive golf after this season,” she said. “Obviously this was a very difficult decision for me to make because I love this game so much. But it’s the right one.”
Her final event will be the Dubai Ladies Masters.
“I’m leaving the game on my terms,” she said.
Tiger Woods called Sorenstam “the greatest female golfer of all time” and said it was sad to see her walk away from the game.
“It has been a pleasure watching Annika play for all of these years, but even more of an honor to call her a friend,” he said.
Sorenstam brought notes with her but, for the most part, did not refer to them.
She drew a parallel to Brett Favre, but was not overcome by emotion as the Green Bay Packers quarterback was when he announced his retirement in March.
“One of the things he said was that he loved the competition but not the daily grind,” she said. “I feel the same way.”
Sorenstam has hinted at retirement the past several seasons, saying she wanted to devote more time to her business and to start a family. She is engaged to Mike McGee, son of former PGA Tour player Jerry McGee.
Even some LPGA players who know Sorenstam well were surprised at the news.
“It really is a shock,” said Natalie Gulbis, who called Sorenstam her closest friend on the tour. “Life on the tour has always been special with her. Knowing she’s not going to be out there is going to be a little different. Knowing Annika as well as I do, she’d love to have it end storybook, going out at No. 1.”
The decision comes two days after Sorenstam won the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill by seven shots for her third victory of the season, and first against a field that included Lorena Ochoa. It was a sign that Sorenstam had fully recovered from injuries and was poised to make a strong bid at recapturing her stature as the best in women’s golf.
“The win the other day was just a bonus, really,” said Sorenstam, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the New York Mets hosted the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. “I had made this decision awhile back. I was almost at peace winning on Sunday, knowing what was going to happen here today.”
Sorenstam dominated women’s golf like few others, especially during a five-year period when she won 43 times and finished among the top three nearly 70 percent of the time.